Torah Sparks

United Synagogue (USCJ) is proud and delighted to bring you Torah Sparks, with insights and learning materials on the Parasha (Torah portion) of the week. Torah Sparks is produced by the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Each week there will be a Dvar Torah - a discussion on some aspect of the reading, by CY faculty, alumni and friends; a Vort - a short thought from Chasidic rebbes or other thinkers about some point in the text; and Table Talk - questions to stimulate discussion on the Parsha around the Shabbat table. Torah Sparks is available here on the Conservative Yeshiva's Shiurim Online Beit Midrash website, as well as by subscription to weekly graphical emails. Please select the Parasha you would like to see - it will display articles from each year. A printable PDF is linked at the end of each week's presentation.

Bava Kamma

Bava Kamma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Bava Kamma Chapter One Mishnah One   Introduction The first mishnah in Bava Kamma serves as an introduction to the first six chapters of the tractate.  As such, if all of the details are unclear now, they will hopefully become clearer as we continue to learn.  The mishnah discusses four primary causes of injury, literary […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Bava Kamma Chapter One Mishna Two   Introduction The second mishnah in Bava Kamma continues in the vein of the previous mishnah, providing us with general information about damage law that we will continue to learn about in subsequent chapters of the mishnah.  Again, some of the details may not be clear, but they will […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Bava Kamma Chapter One Mishnah Three   Introduction The third mishnah of Bava Kamma continues to give us introductory information to the general laws of damages which will be learned throughout the tractate.  The previous mishnahs dealt with the causes of injury (mishnah one) and the type of property for which one would be liable […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Bava Kamma Chapter One Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah introduces us to an extremely important concept in Mishnaic damage law, that is the difference between agents of damage which are likely to damage and those that are not likely to damage.  The first are called “muad”, warned or attested danger and the second are […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Bava Kamma Chapter Ten Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah begins by further discussing the laws of robbery, a topic which was covered throughout the previous chapter.  Section two of the mishnah begins to discuss tax-collectors.  Since tax-collectors were suspected of stealing money, one had to be careful about accepting money from one, lest the […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Bava Kamma Chapter Ten Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah one discussed the prohibition of taking money from a tax-collector, lest the money was stolen money.  Our mishnah deals with cases in which a person is allowed to retain ownership over items that come into his hand even though they may be stolen property or property […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3 – 4

Bava Kamma Chapter Ten Mishnayoth Three and Four   Introduction Mishnah three deals with the problem of stolen property being sold and acquired in the marketplace and the rights of the original owner to have his property returned to him. Mishnah four deals with the case where a person saves his fellow’s property, even though […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5 – 6

Bava Kamma Chapter Ten Mishnayoth Five and Six   Introduction The two mishnayoth which we will learn today continue to deal with a person’s obligations to return his fellow’s property.  Mishnah five deals with a robber who stole a piece of land and then someone else came and took the land from the robber.  Mishnah […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 10, Mishnah 7 – 8

Bava Kamma Chapter Ten Mishnayoth Seven and Eight   Introduction Mishnah Seven deals with a person who either stole, borrowed or received a deposit from another person and does not know whether he has paid him back. Mishnah Eight deals with a person who stole from another and returned the object without telling the original […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 10, Mishnah 9 – 10

Bava Kamma Chapter Ten Mishnayoth Nine and Ten   Introduction Mishnah nine deals with items one may purchase from certain people without concern that they may have been stolen. Mishnah ten deals with a craftsman’s rights to keep the by-products of their work.  In the days of the mishnah a craftsman often did the work […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Bava Kamma Chapter Two Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah deals with damages done by an animal through trampling.  We learned in the mishnah at the end of chapter one that when an animal causes damages in a usual manner, meaning it is an attested danger (muad) for that damage, the owner is obligated to […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Bava Kamma Chapter Two Mishnah Two   Introduction The previous mishnah taught us the laws dealing with damages done by an animal’s “regel” leg through walking (trampling).  This mishnah teaches damages done by an animal’s “shen” or tooth.  Note that the mishnah does not deal with vicious biting by an animal but with an animal […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Bava Kamma Chapter Two Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah deals with damages done by either dogs or goats.  The important principle to remember when reading this mishnah is that a person is obligated full damages when the damager is an attested danger (muad) and only half damages when the damager is an unattested danger […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Bava Kamma Chapter Two Mishnah Four   Introduction We have several times already discussed the two types of danger:  a muad which is an attested danger and a tam, which is harmless, meaning something that is not expected to cause damages.  However, we have mostly discussed the different consequences of being a muad or being […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Bava Kamma Chapter Two Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with one of the clauses from mishnah four of chapter one, which stated that the owner of an ox that damages on the property of the damaged party is obligated for full damages.  If the same ox had committed this type of damage in […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Bava Kamma Chapter Two Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with damages caused by a human being, a topic that was mentioned briefly in chapter one mishnah four.  There we learned that a person was always considered to be muad, or an attested danger.  This mishnah explains deals with that concept, that a human […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1 – 2

Bava Kamma Chapter Three Mishnayot 1-2   Introduction The following two mishnayot (plural of mishnah) deal with damages that a person’s possessions might cause in the public domain.  In general if a person leaves something in the public domain and someone else comes along and breaks it the person who broke it is not obligated […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Bava Kamma Chapter Three Mishnah Ten   Introduction Our mishnah is concerned with the differences in obligation when a human being and an ox cause the same damage.  We will discuss these differences in the explanation. One interesting note is that our mishnah is composed in highly formulaic language, which makes it easier to memorize.  […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Bava Kamma Chapter Three Mishnah Eleven   Introduction The final mishnah of the third chapter is concerned with an extremely important principle in Jewish law, that the burden of proof is on the one who wishes to exact compensation.  In terms of modern law this means that the plaintiff must bring positive proof that the […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3 – 4

Bava Kamma Chapter Three Mishnayoth Three-Four   Introduction The first mishnah we deal with today continues to discuss the topic of damages caused by a person’s property in the public domain.  We learned in the previous two mishnayoth that if a person brings his belongings out to the public domain and someone damages them, the […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Bava Kamma Chapter Three Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with the subject of damages done by a human being in the public domain.  The basic topic is damages done by people carrying different objects and bumping into each other.  One should note that although this mishnah (and most mishnayoth) deal with […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6 – 7

Bava Kamma Chapter Three Mishnayoth Six-Seven   Introduction The first mishnah we will learn today continues to deal with damages caused by people bumping into each other in the public domain.  The second mishnah, the seventh of the chapter, deals with a person who is chopping wood and a chip flies off and injures someone […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Bava Kamma Chapter Three Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah returns to deal with a subject that we dealt with in the last mishnah of chapter one and in the fourth and fifth mishnayoth of chapter 2 and that is the goring ox.  Remember, there are two types of goring oxen, one that is a […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Bava Kamma Chapter Three Mishnah Nine   Introduction Our mishnah is concerned with the scenario mentioned in Exodus 21:35 (translation from JPS Tanakh):  “When a man’s ox gores his neighbor’s ox and it dies, they shall sell the live ox and divide its price, they shall also divide the dead animal.”  This system of payment […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Bava Kamma Chapter Four Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah deals with the nature of the financial obligation of the owner of a harmless ox that has injured several oxen, without it ever becoming an attested danger.  According to one opinion, the owner of the injured ox becomes new owner of the harmless ox, when […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Bava Kamma Chapter Four Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah continues to discuss the meaning of the concepts of muad, an ox which is an attested danger, and tam, an ox which is considered harmless.  We have already mentioned many times that a muad is an ox that has already injured three times (see chapter […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Bava Kamma Chapter Four Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah deals with an ox owned by a Jew that gores either an ox that has been consecrated to the Temple in Jerusalem or an which belongs to a gentile. The first clause of our mishnah is really a midrash halakhah on a verse from Exodus.  […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Bava Kamma Chapter Four Mishnah Four   Introduction Our mishnah deals with oxen owned by deaf-mutes, insane people or minors that damage oxen owned by adults of sound-mind or are damaged by them.  We should note that in the ancient world deaf-mutes were considered to be unintelligent, probably because they had no way of communicating […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5 – 6

Bava Kamma Chapter Four Mishnayot Five and Six   Introduction Until now tractate Bava Kamma has mostly been concerned with an ox that kills or injures another ox.  We learned that in such a case if the injuring ox was accounted harmless (tam) its owner will pay half damages and if it was an attested […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7 – 8

Bava Kamma Chapter Four Mishnah Seven and Eight   Introduction Our two mishnayot continue to deal with the ox that killed a human being.  As we learned previously, according to Exodus 21:28 an ox that has killed a human being is to be put to death and it is forbidden to derive any benefit from […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Bava Kamma Chapter Four Mishnah Nine   Introduction Although we will learn only one mishnah today it really contains two distinct subjects.  The first section deals with an ox owner who gives his ox to a guardian.  Jewish law recognizes four different types of guardians (we will discuss their laws in detail when we learn […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Bava Kamma Chapter Five Mishnah One   Introduction In chapter three mishnah eight we learned an important principle with regards to monetary claims in Jewish law:  the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.  In order to recover money from the defendant the plaintiff must prove that he owes him money. In absence of such […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2 – 3

Bava Kamma Chapter Five Mishnayot Two and Three   Introduction The two mishnayoth which we will learn today are concerned with damages that occur on the property of the damaged party.  In mishnah two we will learn about a pottery maker or a produce seller who brings his ware onto another person’s property and it […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Bava Kamma Chapter Five Mishnah Four   Introduction Exodus 21:22 states:  “When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact from him, the payment is to be based on reckoning” (JPS […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Bava Kamma Chapter Five Mishnah Five   Introduction In the first mishnah of the tractate we learned that there are four archetypal causes of damage.  Our mishnah and the two mishnayoth that we will learn tomorrow are concerned with the second cause of damage, namely the pit.  Exodus 21:33-34 state:  “When a man opens a […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6 – 7

Bava Kamma Chapter Five Mishnayoth Six and Seven   Introduction Mishnah six continues to deal with damages done by a pit, a subject that we began to learn in mishnah five.  The Torah states that a person is obligated for damages caused by a pit which he dug or by a covered pit which he […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1 – 3

Bava Kamma Chapter Six Mishnayoth One through Three   Introduction At the end of chapter five we learned the laws of damages done by a pit, the second archetypal cause of damage listed in the first mishnah of the tractate.  The first three mishnayoth of chapter six will deal with the third archetypal cause of […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Bava Kamma Chapter Six Mishnah Four   Introduction The final three mishnayoth of chapter six deal with the fourth archetypal cause of damage, fire.  The mishnah that we will learn today contains several details concerning a person who directly or indirectly causes damage by fire.   Mishnah 1)                     If a person sends forth fire in […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5 – 6

Bava Kamma Chapter Six Mishnayoth Five and Six   Introduction The final two mishnayoth of chapter six continue to deal with damages caused by fire. We learned in the previous mishnah that a person who sets a fire is liable not just for the destruction of crops but also for the damage done to the […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Bava Kamma Chapter Seven Mishnah One   Introduction The first six chapters of Bava Kamma dealt with damage laws, specifically damage a person’s property causes to another person or to another person’s property.  The remaining four chapters of Bava Kamma deal with various types of damages done directly by a person:  thievery, injury and robbery.  […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 7, Mishnah 2 – 3

Bava Kamma Chapter Seven Mishnayoth Two and Three   Introduction The two mishnayoth that we will learn today continue to deal with the subject of thievery.  Mishnah two is mostly concerned with unusual circumstances in which a thief has stolen an animal and slaughtered it. Mishnah three deals with false witnesses who have testified against […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 7, Mishnah 4 – 5

Bava Kamma Chapter Seven Mishnayoth Four and Five   Introduction The two mishnayoth which we will learn today continue to teach various details in the laws of thievery and twofold, fourfold and fivefold restitution.   Mishnah Four 1)                     If he stole [an ox or a sheep] according to the evidence of two witnesses, and slaughtered […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 7, Mishnah 6 – 7

Bava Kamma Chapter Seven Mishnayot Six and Seven   Introduction Mishnah six continues to define the moment from which a thief is considered to be a thief and will therefore become obligated for twofold restitution.  Jewish law has an intricate system of acquisition or kinyan (see Steinsaltz reference guide for a brief discussion).  In order […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 1

Bava Kamma Chapter Eight Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter eight of Bava Kamma deals with personal injury law.  According to Jewish law when a person injures another person he is obligated for five different payments:  1)  compensation for the injury itself; 2)  compensation for the pain; 3)  payment of medical costs; 4)  loss of wages; […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 2 – 3

Bava Kamma Chapter Eight Mishnayoth Two and Three   Introduction Mishnah two compares payments for injuries caused by an ox with payments for injuries caused by a human.  Mishnah three deals with several laws related to personal injury.    Mishnah Two The law is more strict in the case of a man than in the […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 4 – 5

Bava Kamma Chapter Eight Mishnayoth Four and Five   Introduction Mishnah four deals with two sets of exceptional categories to personal injury law:  the first set includes deaf-mutes, idiots and minors; the second set includes married women and slaves.  People who fit into these categories receive payment if someone else injures them and yet do […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 6

Bava Kamma Chapter Eight Mishnah Six   Introduction Most of mishnah six deals with injuries inflicted on another person that do not cause lasting damage but cause great embarrassment.  The end of the mishnah deals with people who injure themselves or their own property.   Mishnah 1)                     If a man boxed the ear of his […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 7

Bava Kamma Chapter Eight Mishnah Seven   Introduction The first half of our mishnah teaches that a person is not forgiven for embarrassing another person merely by paying whatever fine was imposed upon him.  He must ask for forgiveness.  When he does the injured person should be gracious and forgive him fully and speedily. The […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 9, Mishnah 1

Bava Kamma Chapter Nine Mishnah One   Introduction Chapters nine and ten of Bava Kamma deal with a person who steals openly, usually by force.  In Hebrew this person is called a “gazlan”.  In chapter seven we dealt with a “ganav” or thief who steals surreptitiously.  The major halachic difference between the two is that […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 9, Mishnah 10 – 11

Bava Kamma Chapter Nine Mishnayoth Ten and Eleven   Introduction Mishnah ten deals with a scenario similar to the one dealt with in mishnah nine.  Mishnah nine was concerned with the laws of inheritance in a case where a son stole from his father and the father subsequently died.  The mishnah created a way in […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 9, Mishnah 12

Bava Kamma Chapter Nine Mishnah Twelve   Introduction Mishnah eleven dealt with a person who steals from a convert who has no inheritors, swears falsely to the convert, saying that he did not steal, and then decides to repent.  He is obligated, as is always the case, to restore plus a fifth to the convert […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 9, Mishnah 2

Bava Kamma Chapter Nine Mishnah Two   Introduction In mishnah one we learned that a “gazlan”, robber, must return the stolen object at the value that it was worth at the time of the robbery.  Whether the object increased or decreased in value since the robbery, the robber is obligated to make restitution according to […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 9, Mishnah 3 – 4

Bava Kamma Chapter Nine Mishnayoth Three and Four   Introduction The two mishnayoth which we will learn today deal with craftsmen who receive objects on which to work and somehow ruin the object during the course of their work.  In the previous mishnah we discussed the obligation of a robber to return the object to […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 9, Mishnah 5 – 6

Bava Kamma Chapter Nine Mishnayot Five and Six   Introduction Leviticus 5:20-26 discusses a person who steals from another person (or unlawfully takes his property in another fashion) and afterward swears that he did not do so. In order to atone for his sin he must do three things:  1)  Restore that which he stole; […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 9, Mishnah 7

Bava Kamma Chapter Nine Mishnah Seven   Introduction Our mishnah continues to deal with a subject that we began discussing in mishnah five:  the obligation placed upon the robber to return the value plus one/fifth to the original owner if he swore falsely to him.   Mishnah 1)                     If he had paid him the value […]

Bava Kamma, Chapter 9, Mishnah 8 – 9

Bava Kamma Chapter Nine Mishnayoth Eight and Nine   Introduction Mishnah eight is a continuation of the second part of mishnah seven.  There we learned that if a guardian swore that the deposit which his friend had given him was lost and then witnesses testified that the guardian actually consumed the deposit, he must restore […]

Introduction to Tractate Bava Kamma

Introduction to Tractate Bava Kamma   Bava Kamma literally means “first gate”, and it refers to the fact that this tractate is the first third of what was originally a larger tractate called “Nezikin” or damages.  The next two tractates which we will learn are called Bava Metziah or “middle gate” and Bava Batra, or […]

Learn by Email

Mishnah Yomit

Learn one Mishnah each day with the Conservative Yeshiva's Mishnah Yomit, prepared by faculty member Dr. Joshua Kulp.